Category Archives: Forestry

Secrecy of Lowndes County Commission and Staff

Update 2022-02-06: Board’s Pleasure should be Deny: Miller Bridge Road rezoning @ LCC 2022-02-07.

It’s almost enough to make you wonder why the Lowndes County Commission does not want the public to know what it is doing?

A state-funded road restriping with the list of roads not revealed to the public for three months, and no minutes for the relevant meetings on the Lowndes County website (but LAKE kept a copy from their old website).

A petition with 300 signatures the County Planner just took out of the board packet so even County Commissioners did not see it.

Two board packets (for Planning and County Commission meetings) not returned for more than the statutory three days, and then one of them only partial.

No board packets on the county’s website, even though other counties larger and smaller in Georgia and Florida have been doing that for years.

No minutes (except one) before 2014, or maybe some hidden. Not even any agendas before 2012.

[Lowndes County Agenda Center for 2013]
Lowndes County Agenda Center for 2013

County Commission staff do take videos of the Commission meetings, but they only post videos of the Regular Session (not the Work Session), and not even those between October 2020 and October 2021. This is despite spending more than $100,000 for new audio visual equipment for the Commission Chambers, while the Valdosta City Council has livestreamed through the pandemic using an employee’s iPhone.

I could go on about the stealth reapportionment of Commission Districts and the half million dollar bailout of a developer, both at the same January 25, 2022, Lowndes County Commission meeting, both not revealed to the taxpaying public before the voting Regular Session.

But just items related to the Miller Bridge Road rezoning requests are enough to raise questions about the secrecy of Lowndes County Commission and staff.

Why don’t they want the public and the taxpayers to know?

What don’t they want us to know?

Road Striping

Continue reading

Packet: Staff says growth over agriculture and forestry for Miller Bridge R-A Rezoning @ GLPC 2022-01-31

Update 2022-01-31: Dasher packet item: 10 minutes from SGRC vs. too many days from Lowndes County @ GLPC 2022-01-31.

Lowndes County staff says “existing development pattern and growth of the community” is more important than agriculture and forestry for 6. REZ-2022-03 Windy Hill Subdivision, 7532 Miller Bridge Rd., 0010 022, ~34 ac., E-A to R-A on the agenda for the Monday, January 31, 2022, meeting of the Greater Lowndes Planning Commission. Nevermind the surrounding community overwhelmingly opposes this rezoning and it is the Lowndes County Commission (and the Chamber and others) causing this “pattern and growth” heading north into places it should not go and that the county will never be able to collect enough property taxes to support school buses, fire trucks, and Sheriff calls.

Also, they’ve found one R-1 lot nearby and apparently the Rural Residential Character Area on Morven Road counts heavily as “proximity to the Rural Residential Character Area”. And they’ve ignored numerous requirements of the Comprehensive Plan for for the Agriculture/Forestry/Conservation Character Area, as well as what used to be a hard-no county road safety requirement.

In case you had any doubt, this rezoning is not just about this case, it is about the “precedent set by this case for other similarly sized and located properties in Lowndes County.”

[REZ-2022-03: Miller Bridge Road, E-A to -RA]
REZ-2022-03: Miller Bridge Road, E-A to -RA

Here is the main text of the agenda sheet for this rezoning. I have boldfaced certain phrases and interleaved the relevant maps from the board packet.

HISTORY, FACTS AND ISSUES: Continue reading

Videos: Comprehensive Plan Update Public Hearing 2 @ LCC 2021-10-26

Only one citizen showed up to speak: David Houtz, who asked Commissioners not to change the Character Area Maps, and said he had not seen the latest plan. SGRC’s Elizabeth Backe handed him a copy; she also presented a summary of the process at the beginning of the meeting, and clarified process later.

[Citizen David Houtz, Elizabeth Backe of SGRC, Houtz receives plan, Sparse audience, City Planner Matt Martin, Commissioners Orenstein and Marshall, Commissioners and VDT reporter]
Citizen David Houtz, Elizabeth Backe of SGRC, Houtz receives plan, Sparse audience, City Planner Matt Martin, Commissioners Orenstein and Marshall, Commissioners and VDT reporter

You can see in this LAKE video a discussion between Valdosta and Hahira City Planner Matt Martin and Lowndes County Commissioner Scottie Orenstein about changes to the Hahira Character Area map is not recorded in the minutes, as well as the rest of the 17-minute meeting.

Commissioners discussed the Comprehensive Plan Update again this morning in their Work Session, and they will approve it tomorrow afternoon at 5:30 PM in their Regular Session. Continue reading

FFA, Appointments, Liquor, Rezonings, Roads, Forestry, DUI, Holidays, Insurance, Calendar, Trucks @ LCC 2020-12-07

Update 2020-12-15: Board packet is on the LAKE website.

A million and a half dollars, mostly for insurance, on the agenda for the final Lowndes County Commission session of 2020, and that’s not counting the many-years-long ramifications of rezoning for new subdivisions and acquiring right of way for a new road.

[Rezonings: REZ-2020-17 3833 Inner Perimeter Road; REZ-2020-19 3435 Bemiss Knights Academy; REZ-2020-20 6712 Clyattstone Road]
Rezonings: REZ-2020-17 3833 Inner Perimeter Road; REZ-2020-19 3435 Bemiss Knights Academy; REZ-2020-20 6712 Clyattstone Road

Cost What
$1,240,297.002021 Stop Loss Insurance Coverage Renewal Through Symetra Life Ins. Company
$174,759.002021 ACCG Workers’ Compensation Insurance Renewal
$60,862.00Bid for 2 – Three Quarter Ton Trucks for the Engineering Department
$27,367.00Bid for a Sport Utility Vehicle for the 911 Center
$920.50 Georgia Forestry Commission Services [LAS prescribed burns] Agreement
$381.00Office of the Governor Criminal Justice Coordinating Council Accountability Court Lowndes County DUI Court- State Court
$1,504,586.50Total

Lowndes County Development Authority Terms are up for Brooks Akins, Gary Cannon, and Jerome Tucker. Cannon and Tucker want reappointment, and the Commission almost always reappoints.

Resolution Rejection Quitclaim Deed; Affidavit Regarding Title- Branch Point. The County has laid out the right-of-way for a county road known as Fender Road between Williams School… Trading a parcel to William Q. Touchton, Jr. for another parcel for the road.

REZ-2020-20 Ballyntyne 6712 Clyattstone Road (0071 008) R-1 to R-10, Water & Sewer, ~40.3 acres . For 105+ house lots. In 2006, for a more complicated plan on the same site, GLPC recommended denial 7:0, County Commission denied 2:0. What did GLPC vote this time? And how about factoring in all the costs of paving Clyattstone Road over many previous Commission meetings? Continue reading

Public Facilities Authority, Water tank, dump trucks, VOCA, VAWA, road abandonment @ LCC 2020-10-26

This morning the Lowndes County Commission will discuss abandoning a driveway, er road, a couple of grants for legal purposes, relining a drinking water tank for a fancy subdivision, dump trucks for Public Works, and reappointing Michael Walker, Crawford Powell, and Scott Purvis to the Public Facilities Authority, plus a vacant seat. They will vote Tuesday evening at 5:30 PM.

What does PFA do?

Created via Resolution 05-1130, the general purpose of the authority is declared to be that of providing through the acquisition, construction, installation, renovation, expansion, modification or rehabilitation, any buildings, structure, facilities, improvements, furnishings, fixtures, machinery, equipment and services for the citizens in the county. Members are appointed to three year terms and meet as needed. For more information, contact the Office of the County Clerk, 229-671-2400, or email the County Clerk.

[Map: Road to be Abandoned]
Map: Road to be Abandoned

Cost What
$464,196.00Bid for Four 10-Wheel Dump Trucks for the Public Works Department
$148,000.00Stone Creek Elevated Tank Coating
$17,326.00 Solicitor-General’s Office 2021 VAWA Competitive Application
$6,000.00 Solicitor-General’s VOCA Continuation Grant
$635,522.00Total

How the Abandonment of Artherman Lane can be considered not to affect the budget is mysterious, since Public Works will no longer need to spend to maintain that driveway.

On the Solicitor-General's VOCA Continuation Grant, VOCA is the Victims of Crime Act. The $6,000 cost is health insurance premiums for the two Victim Advocates ($3,000 each).

On the Solicitor-General's Office 2021 VAWA Competitive Application, VAWA is the Violence Against Women Act. The $17,326 is for Cash Match, about $2,000 lower than last time. Lowndes County funnels grant money for five counties, by delegating the District Attorney (DA) to receive and distribute the funds.

Here is the agenda. The board packet is on the LAKE website due to a LAKE open records request. Continue reading

Videos: budget and wood pellet plant at Adel City Council 2020-09-21

The wood pellet plant annexation had one vote against, and two against the rezoning.


[Reporters, Council, Opposition, Agenda]
Reporters, Council, Opposition, Agenda

The budget, millage, and alcohol license passed unanimously.

There was little discussion and no public input. There was a Public Hearing two weeks before.

Below are links to each LAKE video of each agenda item, with a very few notes, and a few more pictures. Continue reading

Budget and wood pellet farm –Adel City Council 2020-09-08

Adel staff answered extensive questions about the budget, in the Adel City Council meeting, Tuesday, August 8, 2020. The proposed wood pellet plant for export to Europe was criticised by several local citizens, and defended by members of local authorities and commissions, as well as its CEO, speaking from Houston, Texas, on a laptop screen.

Budget & Wood Pellet Plant @ Adel City Council 2020-09-08

Below are links to each LAKE video of each agenda item and each speaker, with a few notes. See also Continue reading

Videos: Clyattstone Road Paving, Bids, Lease, Appointments, nothing for Fire Dept. @ LCC 2020-01-14

Maybe it was “custom fit” that caused Commissioner Clay Griner to ask for postponement of approval of purchase of firefighting equipment until after the county’s retreat. All five Commissioners voted for tabling. More detail below in the notes on that item.

Bob Dewar has discovered the county wants an 80-foot right of way to pave Clyattstone Road, “What we do not want is a highway. It’s a quaint county road.” Well, that’s not why the county paves roads. More in the item notes below.

Everything else was passed with little or no discussion.

Below are links to each LAKE video of each agenda item, followed by a LAKE video playlist. See also the Continue reading

Videos: Water quality testing, Bids, Leaase, Appointments @ LCC 2020-01-13

Not on the agenda, Chairman Bill Slaughter at the end of the meeting said Utilities Director Steve Stalvey had been testing water quality on the Withlacoochee River. On December 31, bacterial counts were acceptable. But on January 6, 2020, counts were quite high, so the county made and posted some warning signs at Knights Ferry, Nankin, and State Line (GA 31) Boat Ramps.

Here is one of the county’s signs, at Knights Ferry Boat Ramp, with a sign by WWALS Watershed Coalition (Suwannee Riverkeeper) at the bottom of the other pole with Continue reading

Bids $1.4 million, insurance $1 million, and $0.4 million lease plus two Appointments @ LCC 2020-01-13

A million dollars for Paving – Quail Hollow Acres Subdivision and $0.4 million for Bid for a 3,000 Gallon Tanker for the Fire Department. Another million for 2020 Stop Loss Insurance Coverage through Symetra Life Ins. Company. A quarter million to relocate utilities at I-75 Exit 2 will be paid by GDOT. And a million in income for a Lease Agreement with the State Properties Commission for the Division of Family & Children Services (DFACS).

[Page 60]
Page 60

Molly Deese wants to be reappointed to the Valdosta Lowndes County Conference Center and Tourism Authority. Incumbents almost always get reappointed if they say they want to, and the chances of them not reappointing the Vice President and General Manager of Wild Adventures is pretty slim. Ditto Dr. Frances Brown on the Lowndes County Board of Health.

They’re setting the Special Assessment interest rate “for all paving and utilityassessments that are not paid off within the initial 90-day phase. Unpaid assessments revert to installment agreements which are to be paid over a period of up to ten years.” New rate: 6.75% for 2020, down from 7.50% for 2019.

They’re setting qualifying fees to run for office, primary or general election: Continue reading